Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

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TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, July 6, 2020: Marlys Arnold

Before we get to the insightful interview with Marlys Arnold of Exhibit Marketer’s Cafe, I test out a new Kimafun wireless microphone and explore my backyard. Because, why not? Then in the interview Marlys and I test the waters on what it will take to get back to a quote-unquote normal tradeshow world. Take a look:

Check out Exhibit Marketer’s Cafe here.

Here’s the Kimafun wireless lapel mic I’m using (thanks to Ken Newman for suggesting it!).

ONE GOOD THING: a trio of rare Beatle photographs that I share.


Subscribe to TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee on Apple Podcasts here.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Tradeshow Marketing here, where the vlog version of the podcast appears weekly.

Quick Set-Up Medical Pods and Hand Sanitizer Dispensers

Here in the time of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, there is a growing need for systems that support keeping health workers healthy, keeping patients isolated and helping the average citizen clean and healthy.

Classic Exhibits, one of our main suppliers, took a close look at the current needs and with a little creativity came up with some items that look to fit the bill.

Gravitee Medical Pods

Medical pods have been set up across the country. Imagine how quickly some areas have needed them. These pods need to isolate patients and set up quickly. With Gravitee’s tool-less quick set-up, hard Sintra walls, and the fact that they ship flat, make them a good option for administrators and health professionals. Check out the information sheets here and download the PDFs below.

Hand Sanitizer Stations

You’ve seen them in grocery stores, malls, offices and more. People everywhere are concerned about their cleanliness. They’re washing their hands frequently, and when soap and water isn’t readily available, a hand sanitizer station often is just what is needed.

Download the PDFs here:

Gravitee Medical Pods #1

Gravitee Medical Pods #2

Hand Sanitizer Stations

TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, February 10, 2020: John Peck

Why rent furniture for your tradeshow booth? There are many reasons on both sides of the question. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I sat down with John Peck of Cort Events to talk about furniture rental – and more:

Check out the selection of rental furniture at Cort Events – and yes, if you find something you’d like, contact us. We’ve worked with Cort for years.

This week’s ONE GOOD THING: James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

Choosing the Best Furniture For Your Exhibit

This is a guest article by Ryan Farquharson – Co-founder & CEO of Expocart.

Planning an exhibition involves analyzing many factors at play which is challenging for exhibitors. Choosing the best furniture for your exhibition becomes stressful when you have to consider the theme of your stand, how to express your brand and your staff’s needs. Fortunately, at Expocart, we assist exhibitors in choosing the best furniture for their exhibitions without any struggle. Based on our many years of experience in the exhibition sector and outdoor exhibits, we have developed modern furniture designs for outdoor displays that increase your brand exposure and market your stand. Below are the top tips that you should consider when choosing furniture for your outdoor displays.

Consider Sensible Seating

Whether you will be using exhibit booths, pop out banners, or outdoor banner stands, exhibition is a hard work for your staff and team members coordinating the exhibition. Ensuring that your outdoor display includes ample seating for your team becomes essential. Seating spaces in outdoor displays can be used for tea breaks or turn-taking during the day. We recommend selecting couches that strike a balance between beauty and comfort. Do not prioritize function over form. Select couches that can be reconfigured after tea break for potential customers to lounge on while chatting to your team.

Stand Out of the Crowd Impeccably

The furniture you choose should reflect your brand perfectly from competitor displays. Select the best furniture that creates a strong impression to attract potential buyers in your stand. The furniture should be modern, trendy, and unique. All other accessories should be inviting, practical, easily accessible, and in pristine condition. The quality of the furniture you choose goes a long way to tell your potential customers and passers-by about your brand. Having furniture that will make your display look like it was set up on a shoestring budget is an early fail for your exhibition. In this case, there are cost-effective furniture that reflect your brands and can be customized to command attention even from your competitors. Budget for a few high-cost items to compliment your look and add glamour to your display stand.

Let Your Display Communicate a Theme

You should have a different theme for every exhibition event you attend. Displaying a specific theme makes your stand memorable even after the show is over. Whether your theme is classic, antique, natural, retro, or futuristic theme, choose furniture that compliments it perfectly. Select the furniture with the perfect color, finishing, branding, and decor that cohesively connects your theme to the potential buyers. Consider a uniform theme throughout the display stand to command attention.

Choose Furniture with Storage Spaces

Expocart understands that many exhibition venues lack practical storage spaces or units. Through our experience, it makes sense to seek furniture that has reasonable storage spaces. That not only facilitates smooth exhibitions activities, but also provide an ingeniously designed workable storage solutions. Items like brochures, stationery, gift bags, and extra stock should be stored discreetly and easily accessible when needed. Furniture should have storage spaces to ensure the exhibitor is not liable for any injuries and damages that could occur. Also, good quality furniture also protect your brand image by ensuring potential buyers are not agitated by any unsightly clutter in your stand. Lastly, the furniture should provide security for your valuables, like mobile phones and electronics.

Choose the Right Type of Displays

Choosing the right type of display depends on two factors; method of display desired, and whether you want visitors inside or outside your stand. Choose furniture that allows or blocks easy access to your tent. If you are selling from your exhibit booth, block passer-by’s access to your products by arranging your display tables around the outer edge. This allows you to move freely within your stand as you showcase your products. The furniture you choose should facilitate the desired display methods; light or intensive.

If you want to attract potential buyers inside your exhibit booth, consider using movable furniture or one that minimizes on space to host as many visitors as you can. Use furniture that makes visitors comfortable in your booth and creates a quick rapport for them to engage with your team and products. Ensure the height of the furniture keeps your products within the visitor’s reach without forcing them to crouch or stretch.

Lastly, choose the correct number of furniture for your outdoor display. Less is more! That’s our slogan. Having too much furniture will make your stand look cramped and uninviting, relaying a feeling of sensory overload.


Ryan is the Co-founder and CEO at ExpoCart which is the one-stop shop marketplace for products and services for exhibitions and events. Through our intuitive platform, we make it easy for companies to hire and purchase everything they need for their exhibitions in just a few simple clicks for venues across the UK. With hundreds of products available, we aggregate products from a network of the UK’s leading event and exhibition suppliers.

I Was a Tradeshow Marketing Skeptic

I first got into the tradeshow industry as a fluke. I’d spent over 25 years behind a radio microphone, barely aware that such a thing as tradeshows existed. Sure, I went to local home and garden shows now and then, or the state fair where vendors put up cluttered 10’ booths to hawk their goods. But the idea of a large tradeshow industry with thousands of regional and national shows drawing tens of thousands of visitors was foreign to me.

I was between jobs, as they say, when I got hired as VP of Sales and Marketing. “You have good people skills; we can teach you the rest.” It was a small company. When it came to the idea of spending a large amount of money to set up a custom tradeshow exhibit to promote your business, well, I didn’t get it. Could it work? Sure. Would it? I was doubtful.

First Client: Kettle Foods

The original Kettle Foods 20×20

But I forged ahead. My first client happened to be a local company where I had a connection: Kettle Foods. We designed and built a 20×20 custom exhibit that they used for several years at Natural Products Expo West. They gave away a ton of potato chip samples, got great responses and told me that the new exhibit went over extremely well.

Kettle Foods lead to a referral to Nancy’s Yogurt, which lead to several other clients over the next few years. But I was still unsure of how effective the whole idea was. And while I was getting good responses from clients, to me it appeared only anecdotal. When I looked closer, I was seeing exhibitors meeting partners and clients, giving away samples, launching new products and feeling pretty good about it. But were they really getting good results?

Bob’s Red Mill

The original Bob’s Red Mill 20×20

Then came Bob’s Red Mill. When I first met their marketing team, they had a smaller in-line exhibit that was mainly an off-the-shelf modular exhibit with fabric walls. Typical of the time, around 2005. We designed a custom 20×20 exhibit that they liked, and they were off and running. Shortly after that, I saw Bob Moore, the iconic Bob of Bob’s Red Mill, quoted in a Business Journal article saying that without tradeshow marketing they could not reach certain markets. By regularly exhibiting at tradeshows and meeting new distributors and partners, they were able to expand their markets, which helped grow their company beyond just the northwest part of the country.

When My Eyes Opened

That’s when I finally got it. Tradeshow marketing was helping our clients reach markets they could not otherwise reach. By investing in tradeshow marketing and setting up a nice functional and attractive exhibit that fit their brand at a national show, companies were expanding their markets and selling well beyond their original footprint. Which is why the conversation with clients and potential clients often looks at that angle.

Several clients have also told me that the very fact of having a larger and more effective custom exhibit that fits their brand is bringing them a two-to-four-times increase in their leads at each show. Two to four times! They’re telling me it’s just because of the new exhibit, but I suspect that the act of getting a new exhibit tends to focus the rest of the effort and the marketing team. They instinctively know that investing in a new exhibit property means putting a lot on the line, and the additional effort and focus on making that investment worthwhile adds to the overall success. The new exhibit is key, but the sense of urgency and commitment pushes the team to greater heights.

Why Companies Fail, and Why They Succeed

There are so many moving parts in tradeshow marketing, it’s easy to let a few of the critical pieces fall from your clutch. That’s one of the reasons I wrote two books about tradeshow marketing: to help exhibitors better understand the tasks at hand. I’ve spoken with many exhibitors who have essentially given up. They’ve spent a ton of money and have nothing to show for it. I can see why they’re skeptical of the process and the outcome.

Tradeshow marketing should be a part of an overall integrated marketing plan. They need good products or services, good branding, good customer service and everything else that communicates a positive message to their market. But I’ve seen evidence that many more exhibitors are doing the right things (or enough of the right things while still making mistakes) to make it worthwhile. Done right, a tradeshow is still the best place to reach a focused group of decision makers and influencers from companies that are in a position to make a buying decision. And done right, using digital assets such as videos and photographs after the show can “keep the show alive” long after the hall has closed.

My skepticism is gone because my understanding of the process has increased, and my experience at working with exhibitors has changed me enough to believe that tradeshow marketing can be an extremely effective way to reach markets that you would not otherwise be able to reach.


All That Glitters is Not Gold

Are you one of those people that gets caught up in bright, new shiny objects? It’s easy to do. We’re all easily distracted.

When it comes to tradeshow success, are you guilty of doing the same? Getting caught up in bright and shiny objects instead of focusing on the prize?

Are you overdoing it with technology, for instance? Yes, technology has a place in tradeshows, more today than ever. At this year’s NAB Show, for example, the video walls were overwhelming. But was it worth it? Not up to me to make that judgment. For some, it might have been the best thing they could have done. For others, it might have been overkill.

Technology also shows up in the use of Virtual Reality in tradeshow booths, although I don’t see an overwhelming presence on the show floor. And the few times I’ve personally experienced VR in a booth, it left me underwhelmed. Does that mean you shouldn’t yes VR? No, what it means is that if you decide to invest in the equipment and a VR experience, make it the best you can. Show your stuff. Tell a great story. Knock people out.

What about swag and other giveaways? Yes, giveaways have their time and place, and I have worked with some astute and insightful promotional products companies. But when I get emails from promotional product companies showing off all of their new swag, I can’t help but think “what’s the point?” Many of the new items don’t seem to be a fit for tradeshows or other branded giveaway opportunities. That’s not to say that you should stick with imprinted pens, printed pads and letter openers. Find the middle ground. Make a judgment about what works best and go with that.

And do you really need the newest, brightest, best tradeshow exhibit that money can buy? Probably not. If you decide to do that, great! All of us tradeshow salespeople and fabricators will applaud! But it’s probably not necessary. A good basic tradeshow exhibit that is built for your specific needs – nothing more, nothing less – means you’re saving money for other ancillary marketing efforts, like pre-show mailers, post-show follow-up, social media engagement and more.

The glitter that catches your eyes could be the best thing, the right thing for you. But before you commit the dollars, ask yourself if it’s going to effectively communicate a message, show off your products, reach the right people and bring in results. Once you’ve determined that, you’re on the right track.


Are You Doing These Things at Your Tradeshow?

Tradeshows are crazy, chaotic and have more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg machine. What, you’re too young to remember Rube Goldberg? Not to worry, I’ll make this as easy as possible.

Basically, there are a lot of moving parts just keeping the machine going. Shipping the exhibit, booking travel, getting the exhibit set up and dismantled, making graphic and other exhibit changes prior to the show. Pre-show marketing. Lead generation. Post-show follow-up. And on and on.

But when you think about it, a tradeshow is a great opportunity to do other things. After all, you have a very specific audience: a focused group of decision makers and influencers that are likely interested in what you’re pitching. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Test things. Do a survey.

How?

Lots of different ways. Let’s start with an easy way: do a survey. What one or two pieces of information would you like to uncover regarding your product? What are the biggest challenges your prospects face regularly?

You can do a survey in a few different ways. First, you can simply create a three or four question survey relating to the situation you’re addressing. Print them up and have one of your staffers simply engage with visitors and ask them to participate. Make it easy by telling them it’ll only take a moment or two. Make it worth their while by offering a bit of swag.

You can also set up a digital survey using an online portal such as Survey Monkey, assuming you have internet access. Make it easily accessible on an iPad or Surface tablet and either let them fill out the form or have one of your staffers just ask the questions and then input the answers.

Demonstrate Something.

Do a hands-on demo. Depending on your product or service, this may be easy, or it may be a challenge. I’ve seen great (and not-so-great) VR experiences at tradeshows. Another tool is a touchscreen video where the visitor chooses from a number of selections to see a video, view a sell sheet, learn how something is made, and so on. While hands-on demos do sound great, in a chaotic tradeshow, visitors often need a little urging and frankly, handholding. But if you can politely engage them, many are willing to give a few moments (ask them if they would like to charge their phone for a few minutes, for example). At this time you can relax and plan on taking a few minutes to have them go through a demo, answer a survey, watch a brief video or something else.

Invite them to do more

Another thing to have them do is ask them if they want to sign up for your newsletter.

Or follow you on social media.

And speaking of social media, that’s another good opportunity. If your booth is large enough, dedicate a small section of it to Instagramming. Invite people to snap a photo of themselves (or you offer to do it). Make it worth their while by offering a product sample, swag, or a chance to win something if they post using your company or show hashtag.

Grab some metrics

Count the visitors. I’m guessing that most companies don’t do this. They may have anecdotal evidence that day one had more visitors then day two or three. But they couldn’t tell you if this year was significantly better or only slightly busier. Or if the show was busier but your booth was not. But if you can dedicate someone to count the visitors as best as possible (have a handful of people trade off – and write it down at the end of each shift), even if the numbers are not 100% accurate, they’re better than just trying to guesstimate.

Tradeshows are a great place to pitch your wares, launch products and talk to buyers face to face. But they’re also a ripe opportunity to do a little market research, make stronger connections and test your suppositions.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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